Conservation Agriculture (CA) involves the practice of three interlinked principles of minimum soil disturbance, a permanent soil cover and crop rotation. CA has been promoted in Africa to address food security and environmental challenges. However, adoption of the technology has been slow. Although several studies have been done to understand the factors that affect CA adoption, only a few have investigated the role played by social systems in adoption. Further to this, these adoption studies have methodological limitations, which fail to evaluate farmers’ attitudes to the technology and their perceived effects of social and institutional factors on CA adoption.
This study investigated the effects of the social system (represented by attitudes, by-laws, customs and social influence) in the decision to adopt the three CA principles. It also further sought to determine the influence institutional factors (access to markets, implements, credit and extension services) on adoption. The effects of the same predictor variables on the area under CA were also explored. The study applies the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Further, the study also compared the adoption of CA principles between female and male farmers and between the rich and the poor. The study targeted CA adopters in Nkayi, Zimbabwe and Choma, Zambia.
The study found differences in attitudes to CA benefits between the two districts, suggesting that the farmers’ perceptions of CA depend on the perceived performance of the CA options promoted in a particular context. The effects of the social system factors and institutional factors on CA adoption and on the area under CA had mixed results. By-laws had a significant positive relationship with the practice of minimum soil disturbance but negative relationship with the practice of soil cover and crop rotation. Social influence and customs had significant positive correlation with the area under CA but no significant effects on the adoption of CA principles. Institutional factors had a significantly negative relationship with practice of minimum soil disturbance but a positive relationship with the practice of crop rotation and the area under CA, which suggests that more institutional support is required for the practise of minimum soil disturbance than for crop rotation and area allocated to CA.
The study found no significant difference in adoption of CA principles between male and female farmers, although female farmers adopted two or more CA principles than male farmers. Despite this, female adopters had significantly lower yields from their CA fields than male farmers. The study also found that a significantly higher number of poor farmers adopted two principles (which involved the practice of minimum soil disturbance with either soil cover or crop rotation) than rich farmers. No significant difference between the rich and the poor were found in the adoption of the principle of minimum soil disturbance and adoption of all three CA principles. However, more poor households adopted the minimum soil disturbance principle, while more rich farmers adopted all three CA principles.
The conclusions drawn for these findings are that the effects of the social system components and institutional factors on the uptake of CA depend on how the particular CA principle fits into the social and institutional environment and if the CA principle can be adapted to the local environment. The lack of significant effect of social influence on adoption of CA principles suggested that other factors within the social system, such as alternative sources of information, trust, technology complexity or community values may prohibit social learning. The study recommends agriculture extension services and policymakers to pay more attention to these issues in the promotion of CA by addressing the barriers and adapting CA to local contexts. The study also concluded that the deliberate targeting of the poor and women can help them adopt CA principles. However, there is still need to address challenges that may limit poor farmers from adopting the full CA package; and women from achieving high CA yields.
Thesis (PhD (Rural Development))--University of Pretoria, 2020.